What Does It Mean If You Have White Poop?

Your poop can tell you a lot about your health and how well your digestive system is functioning. 

The color and texture of your poop can change with your diet, certain medications, and as a result of underlying medical conditions. Normal poop usually ranges in color from light to dark brown and even greenish.

If your poop is pale, clay, or white, it may be a sign that something’s wrong with your liver or bile duct.

Here’s what you should know about white poop, including causes of white poop in kids and adults and when you should see a doctor. 

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Causes of White Stool in Adults

The color of your poop is influenced by the foods you eat and a substance called bile. Bile is a yellowish-green fluid produced by your liver that plays an important role in fat digestion. It’s made up of  bile salts, bilirubin, and cholesterol.

Bilirubin is another substance that impacts the color of your poop. It’s a  yellow-colored pigment that’s created from the breakdown of red blood cells. It’s excreted from the body through bile. Bile is stored in the gallbladder, a small sac-like organ that sits under your liver. 

When you eat, your gallbladder delivers bile into your small intestine through a tube called the common bile duct. When it reaches the small intestine, bile helps your body digest food and absorb nutrients by breaking down fats into fatty acids. The waste products from the digestive process are excreted from your body as stool, which is typically a brownish color.

If there’s an issue in the digestive tract or one of the organs involved in digestion isn’t working properly, the color of your poop can change. 

When poop is pale or white in color, it can be a sign of several health issues. 

Liver Disease

Liver diseases like alcoholic cirrhosis, liver cancer, and hepatitis can cause pale or white poop. This is because when the liver isn’t working properly, bile and bilirubin can’t reach the small intestine, which results in pale-colored stool. 

When your liver doesn’t produce enough bile or if the bile can’t reach the small intestine, it will cause your stool to be pale or white in color.

Gallbladder and Bile Duct Conditions

A gallbladder obstruction, or diseases that affect the gallbladder, can cause white poop. If the gallbladder is blocked — known as a biliary obstruction — bile and bilirubin can’t flow into the digestive system, which results in pale-colored poop.

The most common cause of biliary obstruction is gallstones, which are hardened pieces of bile that form in your gallbladder. Gallstones can become lodged in the bile duct and prevent the flow of bile into the intestines.

Gallbladder, pancreatic, and bile duct cancer can also prevent the flow of bile into the small intestine and change  your stool color.

Malabsorption Syndromes

Medical conditions that interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients can cause fatty, foul-smelling, or pale stools. 

There are a number of health conditions that can cause malabsorption, such as liver diseases, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease.


Certain medications could cause light-colored stools. Taking large doses of medications that contain bismuth subsalicylate — like Pepto-Bismol — may change the color of your poop and cause it to look paler or darker than normal.

Pepto Bismol is most often associated with black stools, though some people claim it can also cause light-colored or white stools. Even though this side effect is usually harmless, you should contact your healthcare provider if it doesn’t resolve in a day or so.

Other medications like antacids and barium sulfate enemas can also turn your poop white.

White Stool in Babies and Toddlers

If your baby or child has white poop, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. Babies have poop that’s a different color than most adults and kids. However, white, black, or red poop isn’t normal. White poop could indicate a medical condition like cystic fibrosis, or a liver or bile duct condition.

A milk-only diet and certain medications, like barium sulfate enemas, could also cause your child’s poop to turn a light-gray or white color.

If your baby or child has very pale or white poop, contact their pediatrician for advice.

What Does Healthy Stool Look Like? 

Although healthy stools come in a range of colors, textures, and sizes, most people have poop that’s brownish in color, including yellowish-brown, greenish-brown, and dark brown. If you’re eating lots of green-colored vegetables, your poop may have a greenish hue, which is completely normal.

In terms of texture, healthcare providers use a 7-point scale called the Bristol Stool Chart to assess the texture and shape of bowel movements.

Healthy stools range from a three to a five on the Bristol Stool Chart, while higher and lower numbers indicate that your stool isn’t the right texture or shape. Healthy poop shouldn’t be difficult to pass or too watery.

Everyone experiences change in their bowel habits now and then, which can be caused by stomach bugs, changes in diet, or not drinking enough water. However, if your poop is consistently hard to pass or you frequently experience diarrhea, it’s best to get checked out by a healthcare provider to see what’s causing your digestive issues. 

When to See a Doctor

Your poop won’t always look the same and it’s normal for your poop to be different colors, textures, and sizes. 

But, if you experience frequent constipation and/or diarrhea, or if your poop is black, red, or white in color, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms.

White poop could be a sign of a serious health condition like liver disease or cancer, so it shouldn’t be ignored.

A Quick Review

Normal poop is usually brownish in color, though your diet and underlying medical conditions can cause it to change color. 

If your poop is pale-colored or white, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition like liver or gallbladder disease. Certain medications, like antacids and barium enemas, can also cause poop to turn white. 

If you or your child has white poop, contact a trusted healthcare provider for advice. 

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19 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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